Friday, December 18, 2009

Santa Monica Canyon Cemetery Award

The Pascual Marquez Family Cemetery in Santa Monica Canyon dates back to the 1840s, a little after Mexico granted 6,656 acres to Francisco Marquez and Ysidro Reyes in 1834. That acreage, including both Santa Monica and Rustic Canyon, became the Rancho Boca de Santa Monica, a cattle ranch.

The graveyard holds the remains of probably thirty Marquez family members, as well as friends and servants--possibly the servants were local Gabrielino Indians. According to the cemetery's website, Francisco Marquez and his wife Roque Valenzuela lost six infant children over the years, and they certainly would have been buried there.

The most gruesome burial took place almost a century ago.

This coming New Year's Eve will mark the 100th anniversary of a dinner party at the Marquez adobe at which canned peaches were served--peaches infested with botulism. Over the next five days, twelve people died after eating the peaches, and ten of them are buried in one long grave at the Pascual Marquez Family Cemetery. An infant died of exposure when left unattended during those days, bringing the death total to thirteen.

Until now, the exact location of all the graves had been lost--all but two of the original grave markers, mostly wood, long since turned to dust.

Last January, a team from UCLA's Cotsen Institute of Archaeology used ground-penetrating radar to ID fifteen (possible) graves there, as well as a (possible) mass burial pit. (here's a link to an LA Times story on that. This is their photo, too, by Louis Sinco.) They even brought trained cadaver dogs out to help locate the graves! The identifications will help with the restoration of the cemetery, and the UCLA team has earned a Governor's Historic Preservation Award. That'll be presented in Sacto in January.

In fact, the great-grandson of the original owner is still around. That owner was Francisco Marquez. His son Pascual died in 1916 and was buried at the cemetery--the cemetery is named for him. Ernest Marquez, Pascual's grandson, is 85 years old. He and his relatives are thrilled about UCLA's work and award--the cemetery is the only bit of the original landgrant still owned by the Marquez family.


Anonymous said...

Great post, I am almost 100% in agreement with you

Anonymous said...


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